Hutchison scotches talk of Three UK exit

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Three UK’s Hong Kong parent Hutchison Whampoa says it remains committed to its UK business, contrary to reports, and expects Ofcom to straighten issues by the auction of 800MHz and 2.6GHz spectrum for LTE

Three UK’s parent Hutchinson Whampoa has told Mobile News it has no plans to exit its UK business following a report in The Sunday Times on January 2 it could pull UK funding due to recent moves by Ofcom to refarm spectrum.

Hutchinson Whampoa senior manager of corporate communications Jeremy Lau said the company is committed to Three UK and expects Ofcom to resolve spectrum issues with the auction of 800MHz and 2.6GHz bandwidth next year.

Lau said: “Hutchinson Whampoa is committed to its UK businesses and plans further investment in the country provided that its businesses, particularly telecoms, are allowed to compete fairly.

“It is essential that the design of the upcoming spectrum auctions maintains a competitive market environment.

“Three UK has expressed clearly its expectation the Government and Ofcom will resolve the distorted competition created by allowing the refarming of spectrum currently used for 2G mobile services and that this will be addressed in the structure of the 2012 auction.”

On January 6, Ofcom announced UK operators would be allowed to use spectrum previously only allocated to 2G to implement 3G services.

The relaxation of spectrum regulations allows Vodafone and O2 to ‘re-farm’ their 900MHz spectrum holding, while Everything Everywhere will be able to do the same with its 1800MHz spectrum.

While Ofcom’s move was welcomed by Vodafone and O2, both with significant holdings in the 900MHz band, Three chief executive Kevin Russell said the announcement “jeopardised the whole competitive environment that the 3G auction in 2000 started to establish”.

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